Wednesday, August 27, 2008

u2 conference

At last! I’ve been looking for an excuse for a few years now, an excuse to put some of my course teaching, into words! As part of my Living the Biblical text in a contemporary context course (which I am teaching at Tabor Adelaide, in a few weeks), I look at how U2 develop, and then redevelop their songs. I use the metaphor of DJing (as developed in my Out of Bounds Church? book). So this conference just might be excuse to turn the teaching into a paper!


Posted by steve at 03:44 PM

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

safe and happy

just got back online, so a quick post to say that the Taylor’s arrived safely and are settling in well. the highlight is the fact that we are living about 1 minute walk from the beach, which we all think is wonderful.

other highlights were a whole weekend as a family – yep 2 whole days! – which included the slow spirituality involved in a trip to local markets to buy local food.

my missional church class kicked off yesterday. it is fascinating to be doing it in a different country and in a different denomination because it means new and fresh questions. we had a lot of fun exploring the question “who is converted in Luke 10?”

Posted by steve at 07:17 PM

Thursday, August 21, 2008


The Taylor family leave this Friday (August 22) for a period of study leave in Adelaide. We will be guests of Parkin Wesley College and the Uniting Church of South Australia. I will return on 1 November, while the Taylor girls will return October 14.

Study leave is a block of time to equip for more effective ministry. As I work 3 days per week for Opawa (and 2 days per week for Bible College of New Zealand), my study leave goals for Opawa are to:
– invest in good family time
– do some creative writing projects
– walk and reflect and process and pray. Opawa is a very different church now – more staff, more people, more congregations, more community and mission ministry – compared to the church I came to in 2004. I am seeking clarity for our next season.
– edit some of my sermons into internet resources for a US publishing company

My study leave goals for BCNZ are to:
– teach a course on Missional Church leadership plus do some leadership coaching for the Uniting denomination
– turn that course into a book for a US publishing company
– continue to work on a number of writing projects

The kids will not being going to school, and instead working on a range of learning projects. Lynne will be working on some parts of our Angel Wings business.

In order to pay for the families flight, and for the fun activities, I am also doing a 1 day leadership seminar with the Churches of Christ denomination plus teaching a 5 day block course at Tabor College, on using the Bible today.

Not sure what I will do about the blog. Probably it will also enter a “sabbatical phase” in which I will simply post personal travel adventures, plus perhaps some best of the … old posts!

Posted by steve at 09:52 PM

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

seeing, believing

for espresso: the church in which I get to “throw my keys in the bowl” (and who kindly listened as I played this Radiohead House of cards video as my worship ending on Tuesday nite).

Video shot, not with cameras, but with 3D plotting technologies that gather information about shape and distance. Just think, a whole way of looking that is different from the one you’re using to read this post and watch this radiohead video.

Which made me think about what we do and don’t see – and who we do and don’t see with – and where to go when we get too close and personal to see something properly.

Posted by steve at 03:41 PM

Sunday, August 17, 2008

a theology of pop culture and the Spirit in Luke 10

I am in Auckland for the next 2 days, participating in “The Spirit of Truth – Reading Scripture and Constructing Theology with the Spirit” Colloquim. My task includes delivering a paper titled: A pneumatology for an everyday theology: whither the anonymous Spirit in Luke 10:1-12?

It’s been a lot of fun putting it together; moving between Biblical text and theology of Spirit. I want to offer a theology of popular culture that navigates beyond two tensions that bother me. First, the “adulation of “theology” in the everyday, in which theological God-talk threatens to obliterate out the uniqueness of the pop cultural artifact.”

And a second tension, “”How low can you go?” in constructing a theology of popular culture?

If the feedback is good, I will be looking to publish it in a journal. It’s part of a number of ongoing projects in this area of theology and popular culture for me; including work on an article in the Bible in Bro town and a book project in relation to Christ figures in film.

Posted by steve at 10:54 PM

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

building ministry

About 4.5 years ago I started as a change agent pastor at Opawa. It’s been a turbulent and exciting ride, walking with a 96 year old church, with lots of history, into a new mission future.

I realised the other day that I don’t do linear change. I don’t do that whole “here’s the vision and the goals and the plan.” Instead I do more spiral change, I keep circling over things, running an experiment, seeing the feedback, gathering energy to run another experiment. I like spirals more than linear and reflecting on the journey, I think there’s been 7 spirals going on. Here they are:

A – Renewal of Bible in our congregational life, through interactive preaching, discussion groups, sermon questions, stoning the prophets, lectionary

B – Resourcing a scattered faith, through God at work services, short courses and God at work groups, practices, takeaways, Lenten and Advent resources

C – Multicongregational approach, through planting espresso, hymn service, refresh (did not last), Grow, Soak

D – Formation of mission action teams, including Koru, film nite, evangelism groups.

E – Discipling structures, through Growth coaching, block course teaching, Lectionary readings

F – Staffing aligned our mission life, including part-time team, appointment of mission pastor, discipling pastor, community chaplain, family hub developer

G -Building aligned with our mission life, including couches, coffee machine, and building project. This one has been the biggest surprise and was furthest from my mind in coming to Opawa. But our environments speak and our building was hampering much of the above 6 spirals of change. So we asked ourselves some hard questions as a leadership and a church over a 9 month period. Then over the last 9 months we’ve seen $400,000 in funds raised, for the following – (This 8 minute video was put together for our 2008 church meeting, as an attempt to communicate and link our mission and ministry with the practicalities of our building changes. Enjoy!)

Room by Room – Opawa 08 from opawa mac on Vimeo.

Posted by steve at 11:23 PM

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

healing transitions through life

Life is full of transitions. Historic church sacraments have provided some sort of map for these, but our world is now much more variegated and we need ways to mark miscarriage, drivers license, movement to university, house moving, retirement etc. Which requires the church to be creative and flexible in their pastoral care and ritual making. It’s a whole area of ministry needing to be explored.

One of my best pastoral moments ever was working with a family over a 4 year period. First they requested a home blessing of their first born and together we worked out a unique service. Second was the home blessing of their second born and again we worked out a unique service for that.

Only to find out that between the two homegrown rituals, they had decided to take their words seriously. Since they had asked for God’s help, they had better explore God. So they asked for a third ritual, their baptism!

In my hunt for resources, Abigail Rial Evans, Healing Liturgies for the Seasons of life, has proven very helpful.

The book is collection of a wide range of rituals e.g. adolescence, work, retirement, disabilities, for mental illness, for hospitals, against racism for criminal justice. The rituals are drawn from a wide range of Christian traditions. I would never use them exactly word for word, but the do provide a pastoral and theological checklist, and a window into how other’s have processed life’s events. It’s a fantastic resource, which was most useful in the miscarriage service I did last week.

This book on rituals sits well alongside Olive Fleming Drane, Spirituality to Go, which has less specific words, but lots more general ideas.

For more in being creatively pastoral through life, you might also find this – on transition packs helpful.

Posted by steve at 06:08 PM

Sunday, August 10, 2008

an indigenous call to worship

Those first few minutes of a group gathering are pretty key. The all-important hubbub of people connecting that needs to quietly be gathered. That setting of environment. These dynamics need to shape the call to worship, the gathering of human people.

image-0-150-0-150.jpg A new Kiwi album, Karekare: Te Reo o te Whenua, has been, for me, a great help. A merging of the talents of Paddy Free, one of NZ’s best-known electronic musicians, with Richard Nunns, a master of Taonga Puoro (traditional Maori instruments); they have created a uniquely Aotearoa sound.

At Opawa we have been starting our service with a track, and it’s been just superb to have the air filled with that rich mix of indigenous music with contemporary beats. We then move into our set prayer;

We gather at a place on which many have gone before. Thanks for land on which we gather. Thanks for the generations that have worshipped in this church. Thanks for those who have shaped our faith, mentored and encouraged us. May our acts of worship continue your work of shaping generations for ministry in our world today. Amen.

This album should be essential for any Kiwi alt.worship practice.

Then today we went one stop richer – we found a bird song, from the riroriro, or Grey Warbler, a bird unique to New Zealand. We used that as a loop, with Psalm 104 read over the top. Fantastic!

For other resources go here

Posted by steve at 11:06 PM

Friday, August 08, 2008

Growing Biblical engagement around Opawa

I am currently reading the history of the Bible Reading Fellowship in the UK in early 1900’s. One idea that struck me was how, as well as providing regular Bible notes, they had a monthly evening to introduce these notes. I began to think about how we engage the Lectionary here at Opawa, the “what next?” conversations that emerged from our recent “How to Read the New Testament” course and my wheels started to spin …

A proposal: That we encourage Bible reading and we encourage the Lectionary by doing one-off “Introduction to the book” on an Opawa evening, whenever the Lectionary gets to that Bible book. This would take about 90 minutes (7:30-9pm), this would be shared among the pastoral team, and that any resources we have are also placed in the Opawa 24/7 prayer room for further study, along with a whiteboard/postit notes, on which people can write “what struck them? what questions they have?”

This could
– build a culture of Bible literacy
– over time, we would end up covering lots of the Bible
– serve as a regular advertising reminder of lectionary
– adds layers to the weekly lectionary reading we are now practising at church, reading the Bible for it’s own sake
– honours “how to read the Bible” courses we have run, creating links and ongoing community around these

The detail:


Posted by steve at 06:05 PM

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

18.5 weeks old

I did a wee farewell service tonight for Hine Rose P. who died in the womb at 18.5 weeks. Close friends and family gathered at the family home to mark an incredibly difficult roller coaster journey over the last 7 weeks.

Here was one of the prayers: In the middle is a bowl of water. Water means many things. It speaks of life and death. It speaks of soothing and healing. It speaks of relaxing and letting go and cleansing. Beside the bowl is some salt, representing tears and sadness; and some roses, for Hine Rose, a symbol of love and beauty and joy.

Any who want to may now pray. We can pray with words. We can also pray with actions. You may want to
– make a fist in anger
– hold your palms open in release
– swirl your hands praying comfort
– make sign of cross as a speaking of hope
– add some salt to the water
– float a petal

If you would like to make this prayer your own, either for yourself or for others know who have been through miscarriage, you could add your initials in the comments.

A pastoral note: I’ve never done a service like this before. Normally miscarriages are a thing kept quiet. But I’ve had numbers of older woman thanking me and sharing their pain over the fact that their grief was never publicly marked.

Posted by steve at 11:05 PM

Monday, August 04, 2008

if i’m not there, start without me

I coach leaders in two cities, Auckland and Hamilton, around missional leadership issues. The contract is for a package that includes 10 gatherings, supplied reading with internet engagement, work around missional practices; integrated through two projects that open up the possibility of change within churches and communities.

It’s personally demanding, but fun to be helping leaders in other cities explore change in their patch. On Friday my plane was delayed and I arrived late. I entered to find the group reading Luke 10:1-12 together and preparing to Dwell around this Bible text. If I’m not there, start without me. Both courses are coming to an end, and both courses have decided to keep meeting. I have never before lectured classes that have wanted to continue without me! It says something about the richness found in each other and the need to keep working at the missional issues. It also says something about the way the class has been taught, giving practices and modelling ways to lead that cultivate organic group processes, rather than creating a dependency on the leadership by one.

As I write on the lecture notes by way of definition: “Missional church is not about programs and projects but about the gathering of people concerned with God’s purpose into the wider community. Students will explore the Biblical paradigms, skills, imaginations and capacities required to lead a missional church. The course is heavily focused on ministry contexts and deliberately designed to suit people in ministry.”

After Friday it could read; Missional church is not about lecturers and outside experts but about the gathering of people concerned with God’s purpose into the wider community. Students will explore among themselves the Biblical paradigms, skills, imaginations and capacities required to lead a missional church.

I am having communication with various bodies about next year: and me running similar courses in Dunedin, Christchurch, Auckland and Hamilton again. I always look for a mix of denominations and contexts, so if you want to explore missional church leadership and this – ignore the dates, which were for 2007/8 might work for you, drop me a line.

Posted by steve at 09:04 AM